Grand jury indicts Laken Riley murder suspect on 10 counts

A grand jury indicted Jose Ibarra, 26, with malice murder and felony murder.

May 8, 2024, 6:01 PM

The suspect accused of killing 22-year-old nursing student Laken Riley has been formally indicted on murder and other offenses in connection with the brutal slaying on the University of Georgia campus.

A grand jury indicted Jose Ibarra, 26, with malice murder and felony murder in connection with the death of Riley, who was found dead in a wooded area on the Athens campus on Feb. 22 after she didn't return from a run.

The indictment, which the Athens Clarke County grand jury returned on Tuesday, alleges that Ibarra killed the Augusta University student by "inflicting blunt force trauma to her head and by asphyxiating her" and seriously disfigured her head by striking her "multiple times" with a rock.

PHOTO: Laken Riley is seen in an undated photo.
Laken Riley is seen in an undated photo.
Augusta University

Additional charges in the 10-count indictment include aggravated battery, kidnapping with bodily injury, aggravated assault with intent to rape, obstructing or hindering a person making an emergency telephone call and tampering with evidence. The latter charge alleged that he "knowingly concealed" evidence -- a jacket and gloves -- involving the offense of malice murder.

He was also charged with a peeping tom offense. The indictment alleges that on the same day as Riley's murder, he spied through the window of a different person who lived in an apartment on campus.

"Ibarra will be arraigned on a date to be set by the court," a spokesperson for the Western Circuit District Attorney's Office, which is prosecuting the case, said in a statement. "At this time, we will make no further statements on this case."

Ibarra was arrested on Feb. 23 and initially charged with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, kidnapping, hindering a 911 call and concealing the death of another. He was denied bond and is being held at the Clarke County Jail.

PHOTO: Jose Ibarra in a police booking photo.
Jose Ibarra in a police booking photo.
Clarke County Sheriff’s Office

His attorneys requested a trial by jury in court documents filed in March, Atlanta ABC affiliate WSB reported.

Police have said they do not believe Ibarra -- a migrant from Venezuela -- knew Riley and that this was a "crime of opportunity." Her death has become a rallying cry for immigration reform for many conservatives.

Immigration authorities said Ibarra unlawfully crossed into the United States in 2022. They said he was arrested by New York City police the following year and charged with acting in a manner to injure a child less than 17 and a motor vehicle license violation and was released by the NYPD before a detainer could be issued. The NYPD has said they did not have an arrest on file under the name provided.

Last week, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill into law that requires jailers in the state to check inmates' immigration status. Kemp said the immigration bill "became one of our top priorities following the senseless death of Laken Riley at the hands of someone in this country illegally who had already been arrested even after crossing the border," The Associated Press reported.